Civil rights watchdog AfriForum has warned that the granting of diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe by the South African government is not the end of the matter and that the fight for justice would continue.
Grace‚ who is accused of assaulting a woman‚ Gabriella Engels‚ at a Sandton‚ Johannesburg hotel last week‚ flew back to Zimbabwe with her husband‚ President Robert Mugabe‚ in the early hours of Sunday‚ according to reports from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
Their departure followed the decision of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to grant the Zimbabwean first lady diplomatic immunity in the assault case laid against her by Gabriella Engels.
AfriForum‚ which is assisting Engels in the case‚ said on Sunday that the last word in the matter had not been spoken.
“Mrs Mugabe’s departure to Zimbabwe and the granting of diplomatic immunity by the South African government to her is however not the end of the matter‚” said Willie Spies‚ AfriForum’s legal representative.
He said that AfriForum had already given notice that the organisation would assist Engels in bringing a review application in order to set aside the decision to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe.
“If the review application is successful (and there are very good grounds to believe that such an application will indeed be successful) the doors will be open for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prosecute Mrs Mugabe.
“If the NPA refuses to prosecute‚ AfriForum’s private prosecuting unit‚ under the leadership of Adv. Gerrie Nel‚ is ready to go ahead with private prosecution on behalf of Miss Engels. Whether Mrs Mugabe is in South Africa or not and although diplomatic immunity has been granted to her‚ the last word has not been spoken regarding this matter‚” said Kallie Kriel‚ CEO of AfriForum.
“The fight for justice for Zimbabwe and for Miss Engels will, therefore, go ahead until it is won‚” added Spies.
DA demands inquiry
Also, South Africa’s foremost opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling for a probe into government’s role in what it terms Grace Mugabe’s ‘escape’.
The DA said on Sunday that it would demand an immediate Parliamentary inquiry into ‘government’s complicity’ in allowing Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe to “flee the country in the dead of night to avoid criminal prosecution”.
“The inquiry should call on the ministers of Police‚ International Relations and Cooperation‚ and Defence and Military Veterans to account for their failures‚” said DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.
“It is simply inexplicable how this has happened again. It illustrates how unrepentant the ANC government is and‚ following its complicity in allowing Sudanese president Omar al Bashir to escape an international arrest warrant‚ shows that the ANC government will continue to do exactly what it wants to protect their dodgy friends‚ ”Steenhuisen asserted.
He added that the government had no more legitimacy in the arena of international diplomacy and displayed a total disregard for the rule of law.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation had explained in a statement that it was the Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s discretion to grant Mugabe immunity, citing the need to maintain good inter-governmental relations with the SADC region and the derivative immunity of spouses of heads of state.
The department said the minister carefully considered all the relevant factors, including the “need to uphold the rule of law, ensure fair administration of justice and uphold the rights of the complainant” and “the fact that the matter coincides with South Africa’s hosting of the 37th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Governments.”